Oliver Super 88 Versus Not-So-Super Man
(Page 5 of 10)
My dad pointed out the first problem. A typical old farmer, he gets right to the point, and doesn’t like horsing around.
“You know, it’s got two different rear wheels,” he said.
I hadn’t noticed before, but he was right. One rear wheel was pressed steel, likely from an old Minneapolis-Moline tractor, and the other was cast iron, which was correct for the Oliver.
I also couldn’t help but notice the radiator had a leak, and hydraulic fluid seeped from every seam in the hydraulic system. Both of the front wheels were missing at least one mounting bolt. The steel frame holding the seat had somehow been bent downward on its left side, making the seat tilt down on that side. The gearshift knob was missing. The front grill halves were so badly bent they wouldn’t even come close to mounting on the tractor. A rusty old muffler from an old car sat perched over the exhaust manifold.
Before I saw more than I really wanted, I decided to hop onto the tractor and see if I couldn’t get it fired up. The battery was completely dead, so I hooked it to a charger.
While the battery was charging, my dad and I managed to manhandle the tractor forward just enough to get the trailer ramps into place. This meant that I could now simply drive the old girl off, once the battery was charged.
Sure, the battery turned the starter, but as soon as the engine would sputter to life, it would promptly die.
Finally resorting to Plan B (which should have been to turn the truck and trailer around and head straight back to where the tractor came from), my dad got out his big International tractor, and we pulled the old Oliver off the trailer.
I then began the intricate process of figuring out why the old tractor wouldn’t start.
Much of the next day, too, was spent on resuscitation efforts. The day after that, the same. My dad and I tried just about everything we could think of. We carefully removed each wire, one at a time, and tested it to see if it was good. We drained, cleaned, and refilled the gas tank, just in case bad fuel was the problem. We checked the starter and the ignition switch countless times. We even tried pulling the tractor to get it started, but even that failed.
“Did you check the gas?” my wife, Julie, would ask. “It sounds like it’s out of gas.”
“I’ve already checked it, and there’s half a tank,” I would answer.
Sheepishly admitting failure, I finally towed the thing under a shady tree and began the tedious process of removing parts for cleaning and restoration. My dad was looking the tractor over as I was removing the grill, and he suggested I might want to empty and clean the glass fuel filter reservoir.
“Make sure to close the fuel valve before you take it off,” Dad cautioned.
I reached in and grabbed the valve.
“It’s already closed,” I said.
We looked at each other. I have rarely felt more foolish. When the seller and I were cinching down the tractor, he had apparently turned off the fuel flow because it had a slight drip. He didn’t tell me, and I never thought to check to make sure it was on. Like I said, I was no mechanic.
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